16 July 2008

GAO Report on High Cost Universal Service Program

You might find this report of interest. The short story is:
The high-cost program’s structure has resulted in the inconsistent distribution of support and availability of services across rural America. The program provides support to carriers in all states. However, small carriers receive more support than large carriers. As a result, carriers serving similar rural areas can receive different levels of support. Currently, the high-cost program provides support for the provision of basic telephone service, which is widely available and subscribed to in the nation. But, the program also indirectly supports broadband service, including high-speed Internet, in some rural areas, particularly those areas served by small carriers. The program provides support to both incumbents and competitors; as a result, it creates an incentive for competition to exist where it might not otherwise occur.

There is a clearly established purpose for the high-cost program, but FCC has not established performance goals or measures. GAO was unable to identify performance goals or measures for the program. While FCC has begun preliminary efforts to address these shortcomings, the efforts do not align with practices that GAO has identified as useful for developing successful performance goals and measures. For example, FCC has not created performance goals and measures for intermediate and multiyear periods. In the absence of performance goals and measures, the Congress and FCC are limited in their ability to make informed decisions about the future of the high-cost program.

This report is highly critical of the FCC and its management of these monies. There is no statement on the FCC Website (that I have been able to find, anyway).

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